Thursday, August 25, 2011

{alltv} Digs diggin' his 'Van' Gemini nom

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Peter Mansbridge. George Stroumboulopoulos. J.R. Digs.

Only one of these three men does his TV show from a van.

But notably, this trio has been nominated in the same category -- "best talk series" -- for a 2011 Gemini Award.

"I'm sure the only person more shocked than me was Peter Mansbridge," said Digs, host of Man With a Van. "He probably never has heard of my show.

"One guy (Mansbridge) is interviewing the most important political figures. One guy (Stroumboulopoulos) is interviewing the most important pop icons. And I'm interviewing whoever I can lure into my van.

"So I'm definitely celebrating in the nomination and enjoying the possibility before it ends next Tuesday."


Next Tuesday, Aug. 30, is the first night of the Gemini Awards, which honour the best in Canadian television over three evenings (Aug. 30. Aug. 31, Sept. 7). The final night, with the marquee awards, will be televised live on CBC.

As much as we joke about the Geminis -- you should greet every single person you meet with the words, "Congratulations on your Gemini nomination," because chances are you'll be right -- in all honesty and fairness, this is a big accomplishment for Digs.

If there were a Gemini Award for dogged perseverance, Digs would win it paws-down. He personally has kept his late-night show on the air, in various forms, for a decade now.

The current incarnation, Man With a Van, airs across the country on Global on Saturday nights, before or after Saturday Night Live, depending upon the market.

"The only network show I ever got was called Be Real (on TVtropolis in 2006), and I got a Gemini nomination (for best host in a lifestyle series)," Digs said. "But this one is even more thrilling because it's my show, the one I've been toiling over with no budget for 10 years, trying to get noticed."

Digs has done his late-night show not only from a van, but previously from a studio he built in a garage, from local bars, from a city bus, from people's basements and from his own house.

"I like to think I've had some influence on some people," Digs said. "Tom Green was a guest on my show when I was shooting it from my house. And eight months later, he was doing the same thing."

Digs actually sees an odd symmetry, or dare we say conspiracy, when it comes to his TV career.

Through his first five years, he had to buy his air time and got himself significantly into debt. Then Be Real came along, which wiped out his debt, got him a Gemini nod, and fuelled him to keep his late-night experiment going.

Now, after another five years, with Digs possibly pondering parking the van, another Gemini nod surfaces.

"I'm pretty convinced somebody chose me 10 years ago to play this massive joke," Digs said. "And the joke is, whenever they could sense that I finally was going to give up, something happens that's just enough to keep me going for another five years.

"I think maybe Peter Mansbridge and a bunch of other powerful people get together, sit back and smoke cigars and drink expensive vodka, and watch me go from half-decade to half-decade, trying to break into the industry."

Digs will have the last laugh if he actually beats Mansbridge One on One and George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, both CBC shows, to win a Gemini.

"I guarantee you there will be at least three or four minutes of silence and nobody on stage, because there's no way even I believe that's possible," Digs said.

"But it's a funny industry, in that as bad as it can be, there are these little bursts of sunshine that are warm and fuzzy and keep you going."

That's what we call a Van-tastic attitude.


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